When it comes down to brass tacks, Oregon is better than Cal. They are more disciplined, have more depth and, at this point in time, they have more talent. None of this is news, but the gap between football programs was evident during last night’s thrashing. Cal made mistakes, didn’t make opportunities stand, and let Oregon do what they needed to do. I don’t use such harsh words lightly, but I am using them honestly.
Cal could be good, eventually, but this season needs to be about growth. They can’t worry about bowl games, about doing things that are going to look good on the stat sheets or about not hurting people’s feelings. They need to put the best possible talent out there and build from there. Why? Because this season is not going to result in a division title race or some comeback that results in a bowl berth. It’s going to be a grind-it-out, tough season.
Last night’s game was 41-0 6:08 to play in the half, Oregon had 291 yards of offense and six touchdowns while Cal was happy to put a 46-yard Vincenzo D’Amato field goal through the uprights. The fans at Autzen Stadium withstood a storm that was sweeping across the Pacific Northwest, and they stayed outrageous all night, long after the game was in hand. Meanwhile, Memorial Stadium was mostly filled with red two weeks ago against Ohio State. If you want to see the difference in programs, that’s where you see it the most.
I guess the thing that irked me the most last night, more than the missed opportunities to start the game, more than the easy trots into the end zone Oregon had, and more than the (in my opinion) horrendously dirty block Josh Huff laid on Kameron Jackson, was the fact that Sonny Dykes opted to take Jared Goff, who was the national leader of average passing yards per game, out midway through the second quarter.
Goff was just 3-of-6 passes for 11 yards in the first quarter before he was replaced by Zach Kline. I understand that Goff was not able to grip the ball well (mostly due to the rain, though some on this sight speculate his hand size being the problem), but he is the starter and the future of Cal football going forward… you cannot take him out that early during the biggest game of the season. You have to let him take his lumps; otherwise how is he going to learn?
I was interested to see what Goff would do against Oregon’s secondary. Instead, I had to watch Kline loft the ball with a bad looking delivery (though that could be faulted by the rain) and see him (in his first action at this level mind you) go 18-for-37 with 165 yards with a touchdown during garbage time and an interception.
I am not saying that Goff in the game means Cal wins, nor am I saying that Kline is a bad player (in fact, I thought he’d be the starter this season). What I am saying is that Kline could have easily performed as poorly had he started once the third began rather than start during the second quarter. So why take out your true freshman – and in theory shake his confidence – in favor of someone who you haven’t played before? It made no sense.
On the other hand, Oregon’s offense was every bit the well oiled machine they were advertised to be. They were even without De’Anthony Thomas, their star runningback, who injured his ankle during the opening kick off of the game. It meant nothing, as backup Byron Marshall ran wild on the Cal defense, rushing for 130 yard on 19 carries with two touchdowns. Oregon didn’t even need too much out of quarterback Marcus Mariota, who still looked impressive while having a very bland game statistically-going 11-of-25 for 114 yards and two touchdowns last night.
Cal also turned the ball over five times, four of those turnovers coming by way of fumble.
Overall, there isn’t much more than can be said about this game that hasn’t already been touched on. Cal has all the tools to build a great program; a world-class university, an amazing geographical location, good facilities and what I think is a good coaching staff. They need to make the moves to ensure that this program becomes the dynamo it potentially can – and definitely should – be.
Oregon, meanwhile, is the best team in college football. All the things that Ohio State did against Cal (letting Cal back in the game, resting on their early game performance, sleeping on Cal’s abilities and playing arrogant) are things Oregon did not do. There was no drop-off in performance between their Nicholls State game to their Virginia game to this game. They are dominating and damn near unbeatable, no matter who they play, when they play, where they play or under what conditions they play.
Next week, Cal hosts a tough offensive team in Washington State, and in order to make that game a good one, they have to work hard this week during practice to fix problems that kept them from really competing this weekend. However, at the very least, the last eight games of season include at least five winnable games, and in order to win those games (and in theory become bowl eligible) they will need to start with a win here against the Cougars.
They were likely going to lose this game either way. I doubt anyone thought it’d be this lopsided. But the Golden Bears cannot afford to lick their wounds and stay disappointed about this game. There is a lot left to play for this season.